Nicolay will be known to most as a former member of The Hold Steady and World/Inferno Friendship Society but this is not his first foray into the limelight as a solo artist. 2009's Major General was a well received debut with other subsequent low profile releases showing Nicolay's willingness to diversify and experiment with his sound. That experimentation has served him well as Luck and Courage is a wonderful record that blends his punk sensibilities with that of an articulate troubadour.
If you are expecting a record that sound like any of his previous bands then you will be disappointed. Luck and Courage is a masterclass in instrumentation, arrangement and poetic musings that his previous incarnations have been unable to capture. This is Nicolay's Sgt Pepper.
His skills as a storyteller is evident from the very first track, Felix & Adelita. His lyrics of forlorn love are framed by a hypnotic brushed snare, mellow organ underpinning the song throughout, with the tight sound of the banjo emphasising the chord changes. The whole premise of this album is based around the afore mentioned Felix & Adelita and tracks where their life, love and destiny takes them.
This is an album that is packed with songs of real beauty. This Is Not A Pipe, Z For Zachariah and Job 35:10 are all simply stunning and layered with melancholy as we are regaled with stories from Nicolay's fertile world of colourful characters and strange places. It is however on The Last Words Of Gene Autry that he reaches his pinnacle. This piano driven ballad is the perfect backdrop for his plaintive yet expressionate voice.
Luck and Courage is a work of grand proportions that deserves to be heard. The production of Willie Nelson and Franz Ferdinand producer Jim Keller is suitably understated with the assorted cast of musicians all carrying off their roles with aplomb. I genuinely have not been able to stop listening to this album and its destiny to become a classic in my book is already confirmed.